Last weekend we were staying in Lyme Regis and by way of using the National Garden Scheme App, I discovered that Frankham Farm some 18 miles away was open on the Sunday.
We drove through the delightful Dorset lanes, narrow with neatly trimmed bare brown hedges and banked with primroses.
Situated in the extraordinary sounding village of Ryme Intrinseca, south of Yeovil, Frankham Farm is a well established working farm and we were directed through the farm buildings situated north of the house to park in front of the cattle yard.
It had amused us that the garden description contained the encouraging words ‘New toilets in 2019′, so having had a lengthy drive through the little lanes of Dorset what a joy it was to find them. Heated too. I felt they deserve recording.
This three-and-a-half acre garden was created in 1959 by Mrs Jo Earle mother of the present occupant. I imagined this magnificent magnolia against the house might have been one of her first plantings.
She loved the Spring but March is that time of year when the weather is so unpredictable and whilst the wintry snowdrops were just going over,
the clumps of delicate daffodils were giving a nod to spring in the morning sunshine.
Defying the chilly wind of “Storm Gareth” and unusually in flower for this time of year, it was a surprise to find Cerinthe major a hardy annual blooming amongst the paving in front of the house.
The Earles planted shelter belts on the east and west sides of the garden, and a low wall surrounds the lawn and its borders to the south. It is obvious that the soil is improved by the occupants of the farmyard. I expect in those early days when the garden was first developed there was labour at hand. Now the mature garden waits for its spring tidy up, and areas like this will come into their own during the summer months.
Not far from this bench (and this photo does not do it justice), is a handsome camellia; the flower a deepest of red and the leaf the darkest of glossy green.
This rose is keen to get going, pushing out its red shoots and dainty leaves.
Aubretia tumbles down from the walls under which happy hellebores flower.
It is an intense blue from this Pulmonaria officinalis. In times past, doctors believed that plants that resembled any body part could be used to treat illnesses of that part. The leaves of Pulmonaria officinalis commonly known as lungwort held to be representative of diseased lungs so this plant was used to treat coughs and diseases of the chest.
A splash of white and a strong fragrance comes from the Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill’,
and round the corner the winter-flowering honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissima clambering along the wall, smells delicious too.
In the vegetable garden brick paths lead around a fine Bramley apple. The area is not only busy and productive
but also decorative too, with paths edged by a variety of low shrubs and arches adorned with a selection of old climbers.
There is even a small rockery arranged like a back-bone of some creature – the perfect place for small alpines.
The terracotta rhubarb forcers at their jaunty angle seem to be enjoying their role.
Rising up behind the vegetable garden adjoining the shelter belts is a particularly spectacular specimen of Photinia x fraseri.
Plant combinations can be enlightening and this healthy skimmia looks so good with a fern. There is no doubt that plants benefit from the enriched soil.
It is a very informal area, wild may be a better description, I worry that the Ivy may take control however the path leads you through Camellias of every colour.
I can’t grow them on my alkaline soil so I take a little time to admire them.
It is an enviable list of trees planted within the shelter belt, their names helpfully identified on a map. Many of the trees were grown from seed and it is easy to forget that in the early sixties there existed few of the garden centres and nurseries open to us now.
On this windy day the canopy sways above us but the intriguing cork oak Quercus suber stands solid.
Mrs Earle’ s final project was a booklet about the garden; it would be interesting to know the story behind this gentleman, alone amongst the trees.
This morning plenty of fir cones lie on the ground but none are as large as this carved wooden sculpture sited at the end of the belt.
We decide to take a break for a bite. Served above the stables it is a relief to get out of the wind. The church ladies are charming, and serve us soup and pulled pork, a skill they have been exercising for many a year. A gentle touch that each table has an arrangement of flowers picked from the garden,
and proudly displayed on the wall is a faded photo of Mr and Mrs Earle and the trowel presented to them back in 2003 by the National Garden Scheme for long service.
We resume our tour through a rustic arch entering the old paddock,
where more-recently planted trees have been sited, perhaps taken over from ponies that once grazed this grassland. The tangle of willow with its silvery catkins is surely the harbinger of spring and this garden opening signifies the visiting season is just beginning. Download that App, get out into a garden, and remember that while it is good for you, you are also raising funds for the health and nursing charities that the National Garden Scheme supports.
You always come away from a garden with something; an idea, a plant or even on this occasion the purchase of a very nice table and chairs, now relocated to my garden.